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Someone you know may be misusing alcohol if:

  • They regularly exceed the lower-risk daily limit for alcohol
  • They’re sometimes unable to remember what happened the night before because of their drinking
  • They fail to do what was expected of them as a result of their drinking – for example, missing an appointment or work because of being drunk or hungover.

Some signs of addiction

  • Preoccupied – Depending on how long symptoms are showing, the persons life may revolves around the drug making them preoccupied
  • Craving: The need to take the drug becomes more pressing and you may start to notice the shakes as a sign of withdrawal
  • Secrecy: They may not be completely truthful about their drinking habits
  • Social circle: You may notice changes in their social circle or in their free time activity
  • Appearance: They may start to neglect their appearance and you may be able to smell alcohol regularly on their breath
  • Dependence: They may appear uneasy at social events around alcohol

Some behaviour is mainly associated with alcohol addiction:

  • Drinking in the mornings or waiting until lunch to seek a drink.
  • Drinking on their own. Alcohol on their breath obvious before a social engagement.
  • Memory blackouts occur and there is marked personality change with depression, anxiety isolation and loss of self-esteem.

Physical signs of alcohol misuse:

Alcohol makes you feel more relaxed in the short-term, but according to independent UK charity Drinkaware*, regular misuse can lead to a person becoming more stressed.

Some of the physical signs are:

  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach problems
  • Memory loss, blackouts

Alcohol slows down the brain and the processes of the central nervous system’s processes, which can affect your work performance badly, your concept of safety as well as your interactions with those you love.

Problems at work:

  • Turning up late for work,
  • Being unreliable,
  • Arriving at meetings smelling of alcohol,
  • Failing to turn up to business appointments,
  • Drinking at lunch,
  • Erratic performance,
  • Risk taking.

For more information on alcohol misuse please check out the NHS website.

Click here to find out more about alcohol and units.




One of the biggest barriers to people getting help for alcohol/drug addiction is the stigma associated with the disease. 9/10 people with mental health problems have reported experiencing stigma and discrimination in their lives.

Stigma is a negative attitude imposed by society on people who it judges as not ‘normal’. It is a reaction of fear, ignorance and prejudice. Alcoholism is an illness, and it is not anyone’s fault that someone might suffer of it.

Effects of stigma around alcohol

  • Secrecy: Functioning alcoholics are very common in our society, with a high representation in high-income households. Despite this, there is a stigma around what it means to be an alcoholic which make it difficult for people to associate with the illness.
  • Isolation: Often to avoid confronting the issue and to avoid temptation, those surrounding the person drinking may avoid social situations
  • Anger: Family, friends and work colleagues can become angry at the situation and can find it difficult to have a conversation around someone’s drinking

How to cope with the stigma of alcohol & drug addiction


Accept that your colleague has an illness, a treatable illness and it’s not their fault. Recovery from alcohol and drug addiction is possible.

Support plans

Look into the support offered by your employer in their alcohol policy. It can be difficult asking for help in a situation when you are worried about the consequence. You may just find your colleague has more rights than you are aware of and your employer may even support with treatment.

Find out about a self-help group like Alcoholics Anonymous / Narcotics Anonymous in your area

We are rich in services in Scotland. Take a look at our partners or visit your local ADP site to find out about support groups near you. If the opportunity arises to talk to your colleague about help available to them you will be prepared.

Who can help?

Seek expert treatment

  • There are many organisations that help work colleagues and employers with every aspect of alcohol and drug treatment. Get in touch to find out more
  • Don’t isolate yourself

If you feel safe with your colleague, speak to them about your worries about their alcohol and drug problems. They may just be grateful that you are opening up to them and can be of great support in the recovery process.

When to Talk with Your Friend

Timing matters when dealing with your friend. Don’t try to talk when your friend is drunk or high; it’s too difficult to take in what you’re saying, and the situation could escalate.

Instead, talk with your friend when he or she is clearheaded. One approach is to reach out when your friend is hungover or remorseful following a drinking incident—when the negative consequences are fresh in your friend’s mind.

How to Get the Conversation Started

Don’t worry about saying things perfectly. Expressing your concern for your loved one in a caring and honest way is the most important message you can convey.

You might want to take someone with you who understands your concern for your friend’s problem, perhaps someone with a connection to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or a similar group. Click here for some suggestions.

You could also tell someone what you’re doing and have him or her available by phone for support. It is a good idea to meet with your friend on neutral turf, but not in a restaurant or bar or where alcohol is available.

Key Points to Keep in Mind

Be supportive. No matter how “bad” your friend’s behaviour has been lately, he or she is not a bad person. Addiction is a disease, and it’s been recognised as such so don’t blame or criticise. Check out our page on Stigma to find out more about the pressures they may be under.

You’re speaking up because you care about your friend’s life and health, not to make them “get their act together.”

Be specific about what you’re seeing. Bring up particular incidents such as, “When you canceled our plans the other day” rather than sweeping statements such as, “You never keep your word.” It’s also helpful to frame the conversation by using “I” phrases, such as “I noticed” or “I’m worried” because your friend can’t dispute your perceptions and feelings.

Be encouraging. Talk about the effect your friend’s drinking or drug use has on whatever he or she cares about most: career, children, sports, etc. Your friend may not be concerned about his or her own situation, but may care deeply for his or her children, for example, and the impact on them.

Be prepared. You might want to write down what you want to say, and that could vary depending on the level of your friendship: close friend, casual friend or coworker. Here are some ideas for “opening lines” to help you approach each type of friend in the most effective way. Of course, your friend could respond in any number of ways besides the few examples given. The main thing is to listen, stick to the facts, show a caring attitude and offer your assistance and support.

What to Say to a Close Friend or Loved One

“You know, Barb, we’ve been friends for a long time now, as close as sisters. And, while I don’t want to meddle, I’ve noticed that you’re drinking and getting high more lately, and you don’t seem to be getting along with your family as much as you used to. I’m worried about you. Let’s talk about it.”

If Barb says: “You know, you’re right. I have noticed that I’ve been drinking more in the last couple of months. But I think it’s because I’ve been under more pressure than usual at work and at home. It’s probably just a phase. I’m sure I’ll snap out of it soon.”

You can say: “I know it appears a drink or two can take the edge off temporarily. But drinking can’t solve your problems, and from what you’ve told me, things seem to be getting worse, maybe because you’re drinking more. A professional assessment by a counsellor or therapist can help you figure out if you’re dealing with alcohol addiction or what else might be going on with all of this stress you’re experiencing.”

What to Say to a Casual Friend or Acquaintance

“Jim, I’ve always enjoyed playing cards with you. But after a couple of beers, I see a personality change, and there are arguments. It’s not like you. You usually get along with everyone except when you’re drinking. I’d hate to see you lose your friends.”

If Jim says: “Who are you to tell me I drink too much? We all have a few when we play cards. And the words I had with Al and Walt were no big deal. I just got a little hot under the collar.”

You can say: “Jim, I don’t count how many drinks you or anyone else has. I’ve just noticed that at some point in the evening, after you’ve been drinking awhile, I see a more argumentative side of you. I don’t want to see you destroy your relationships with people who care about you. So I thought I’d mention it now because I’m your friend and I want to help.”

What to Say to a Coworker or Colleague

“Chris, you’re one of the brightest people I know. But recently, you’ve been missing a lot of work and coming in late. And this week, my report got held up because I didn’t have your input. You don’t seem to be yourself. I know you’ve been drinking (or using drugs) a lot. If you’re having a problem with alcohol, drugs or anything else, I’d be happy to help you get the assistance you need. I’d hate to see you lose your job.”

If Chris says: “Hey, I know I’ve been a little out of control recently, and I have been partying more than usual, but don’t worry. I’m working on getting my act together.”

You can say: “Well, I hope you do. But sometimes it’s hard to get your act together by yourself. So if you need any help, please know that I’m here and I’ll listen. I value your friendship and will do anything I can.”

Check out the AA website here for information about meets in your area.


Related links:

Do they have an addiction?

Who can help?


Alcoholics Anonymous – Find a Meeting

What can be impacted

Life with an alcoholic

Dealing with resistance

Support groups

Managing expectations around alcohol recovery

Club Soda

What to Do If Your Friend Isn’t Ready for Help

Don’t be surprised, and don’t take it personally. Denial is one of the unfortunate symptoms of addiction. So if you feel you’re not getting through to your friend, it’s not your fault or your friend’s fault. It’s okay to back off and let your friend know that whenever he or she is ready for help, you’ll be there. You could also give your friend the phone number of a local AA group.

By raising the issue with your friend, you’ve planted a seed of recovery that could grow when you least expect it. In the meantime, stay in touch and continue to show your concern and support. For example, if your friend only wants to meet where he or she can drink, suggest another place. Don’t offer alcohol when your friend visits. Don’t continue to lend money if that’s an ongoing problem. Don’t accept late-night calls when your friend is drunk or high.

You can check out some local services by clicking here. 

Before getting together with your friend, contact AA to get a schedule of meetings in your area. That way, if your friend readily admits to having a problem and wants to do something about it, you’ll be prepared with meeting dates and locations. You could even offer to provide a ride to a meeting or connect your friend with an AA contact person.

If going to a meeting seems like too big a first step to your friend, suggest an assessment by a counsellor, physician or mental health professional who is knowledgeable about substance abuse and sobriety.

You may also want to call a local outpatient or inpatient treatment program to learn about services and options. If your friend wants to know more about going to an addiction treatment program, offer to be there when he or she calls for more information.

Click here to check out the AA website.

Abuse comes in many other forms than just physically which makes it difficult to recognize it sometimes. Have a look at the list below for common forms of abuse and make sure to explore the links in the bottom of the page for more information and help.

Common Signs of Abuse:

  • Criticising you
  • Accusing you of things you haven’t done
  • Controlling who you can see and where you go
  • Threatening to harm you or someone you love
  • Telling you what to wear and how to look
  • Shouting at you
  • Damaging property
  • Deliberately intimidating you
  • Withholding your access to money
  • Calling you names
  • Deliberately embarrassing you or making you feel small in front of others
  • Trying to turn you against loved ones
  • Refusing to use contraception
  • Lying about things you know have happened
  • “Guilt tripping” you into doing something you don’t want to do
  • Forcing you to perform a sexual act
  • Any kind of physical restraint or injury

Remember that it’s also important to listen to your “gut feeling” – if you feel uneasy and scared around someone but can’t explain why, this could be your body telling you something is wrong. If you feel unusually anxious around your partner and worry that they may harm you, pay attention to those feelings and seek support before it goes too far.


Related links:

Click here to see the various forms of abuse.

Where can you get help.

How to support a loved one suffering from abuse.

The Survivor’s Handbook.

When you are in a relationship with an abusive or alcoholic partner, you may spend a lot of time feeling like you are walking on eggshells. Even the slightest thing can cause a spark of aggression which can quickly escalate into a dangerous situation, so it is helpful to understand some of the most common triggers. These include: 


Environmental factors: an unwashed pan, dirty carpet or something being left in the “wrong” place can easily cause an abusive partner to fly off the handle. Equally, noise, distractions and being unable to access drugs or alcohol can quickly lead to aggressive behaviour.  

Embarrassment and humiliation: if someone who is prone to aggression feels they are being criticised, laughed at or not treated with respect they can quickly become dangerous. 

Fear: even people who seem to be strong and confident can easily become fearful of the world around them, and this is often an important factor in those with abusive tendencies. Fear of not being good enough or losing something/someone important to them can easily transfer to aggressive or threatening behaviour. 

Rejection: this is a common trigger of aggressive behaviour, often related to relationship breakups, disinterest from a potential partner or failing to secure a job or promotion.  

Tiredness: sleep is important for all aspects of our wellbeing, including our mental health. Tiredness can make us people short tempered and more likely to fly off the handle if something goes wrong.  

Drugs and Alcohol:  drink and certain drugs, such as cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, amphetamine and spice, can all trigger aggressive behaviour and loss of control.  


It is important to understand that while these triggers can help to explain the causes of aggressive behaviour, they should never be seen as an excuse. If your partner is aggressive it is not your fault, and you have the right to live a peaceful life without fear. 



Related links:

Early Indicators of Abuse

How to Stay Safe at Home

Finding a Safe House

How to Report Domestic Violence

Domestic Abuse Support

Financial Aid

Warning signs

 If you use drink to try and improve your mood or mask your depression, you may be starting a vicious cycle…warning signs that alcohol is affecting your mood include:

  • Poor sleep after drinking
  • Feeling tired because of a hangover
  • Low mood
  • Experiencing anxiety in situations where you would normally feel comfortable.

Four ways to help prevent alcohol affecting your mood:

  • Use exercise and relaxation to tackle stress instead of alcohol.
  • Learn breathing techniques to try when you feel anxious.
  • Talk to someone about your worries. Don’t try and mask them with alcohol.
  • Always be aware of why you’re drinking. Don’t assume it will make a bad feeling go away, it’s more likely to exaggerate it.

Drinking can have harmful consequences both for the drinker and to people around them. Everyone might get used to the situation and treat it as normal, which might make seeking help seem unnecessary. Please have a look at some of the issues that you or people close to you might face due to alcoholism.


Risks for the drinker:

  • Injures from tripping and falling
  • Causing a fire
  • Driving under influence – also danger to others in society
  • Making bad decisions – for example, engaging in violence
  • Financial troubles
  • Losing relationships
  • Causing issues in the family
  • Causing risks at workplace

Risks for children:

  • Being affected by FASD
  • Lack of safety at home
  • Developing mental health issues
  • Embarrassment – fear of bringing friends over

Risks for partners:

  • Domestic abuse – The British Crime Survey 2013/2014 found that alcohol was involved in 36% of all domestic abuse incidents[i]
  • Financial problems
  • Divorce, cheating, separation and other issues related to marriage
  • Developing mental health issues
  • Having no safety net

Risks for friends:

  • Loss of friendship
  • Financial problems – ending up borrowing money for the alcoholic friend, for instance
  • Peer pressure – especially among younger people to partake in drinking related events
  • Aggression

Risks for co-workers:

  • Accidents caused by the alcoholic – 15% people in a study admitted having been drunk at work[ii]
  • Having to cover for the person with addiction and do their work
  • Violence
  • Lack of safety

Risks for employers:

  • Absenteeism – an estimated 17M working days are lost each year by people missing work due to the effects of alcohol[iii]
  • Decreased productivity
  • Possibly having to dismiss an employee if they are causing too much trouble at the workplace


Here are some indicators that tell someone might be suffering from addiction. We also have tips for helping the addict, and advice for staying safe at home.




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